Sears store closures for 2017 now pushing 250

Dive Brief:

  • Sears is closing an additional 66 stores on top of the 180 closures already announced this year, a source close to Sears told Retail Dive on Wednesday, adding that store associates at affected locations have been notified. Among the new round of planned closures are 49 Kmart and 17 Sears stores. 

  • Business Insider on Tuesday published a list of 72 new store closures, including 49 Kmart stores, 16 Sears stores and seven auto centers, citing an internal memo it obtained. Sears did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the closures.

  • Also this week, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert on Monday issued a brief update to a complaint with a vendor, saying in a blog post, “The matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties and we look forward to continuing our relationship with One World.” Last month, Lampert had asserted that tool maker was attempting to renege on its contract and threatening to sue Sears in court.

Dive Insight:

The Sears company blog has been a useful place for executives, including Lampert, to refute rumors about store closings, vendor tussles and even the utter collapse of its Kmart division. Lampert in particular in recent months has taken to the blog to blast the media and what he calls “deliberately unfair” reports that the company is having trouble meeting its obligations. That, he said, is leading suppliers to ask for more Draconian contract terms.

The media is, however, reporting facts and figures from analysts and the company’s own financial disclosures and press releases. For example, in December Sears reported its 20th consecutive quarterly sales and revenue miss, and announced it would accelerate the closing of unprofitable stores to combat declines. The company this year also sold its popular Craftsman tools line to Black and Decker for $900 million and has begun outsourcing its Kenmore home appliance brand

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In March, Sears expressed diminished hopes in its ability to continue operating, according to its annual report filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That alone might make vendors nervous, but many analysts have also signaled that the company is spiraling out of control.

While Lampert and Sears defend layoffs and other restructuring efforts as a sober path back to viability, in practice the moves have served to pay debt and stave off death, as opposed to devoting resources to retail essentials. For example, rather than devising a plan to rebuild store traffic and drive growth (its much touted and somewhat successful Shop Your Way omnichannel effort notwithstanding), Sears continues to rely on financial moves that merely prop it up (most notably a series of loans from Lampert’s hedge fund), Greg Portell, lead partner in Retail Practice at consulting firm A.T. Kearney, told Retail Dive earlier this year.

In fact, Sears’ financial performance “remains extremely weak, which is prompting the acceleration of cost reductions by an additional $250 million,” Moody’s Vice President and Senior Analyst Christina Boni said in an email to Retail Dive in April. “Its effort to sell real estate which has produced over $700 million of bids currently will enhance liquidity, but accelerates the timeline required to stem operating losses as it asset base diminishes.”

It wasn’t a huge surprise when rumors (eventually confirmed to Retail Dive) of massive layoffs at Sears’ corporate headquarters began circulating in February. Lampert’s defense of the company at times appears to come from left field, as when, last month at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, he stipulated in his keynote that Sears has plenty of support from shoppers. “We don’t need more customers,” he said, according to reports of the meeting, uttering a sentence rarely, if ever, heard in retail. “We have all the customers we could possibly want.”  

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